Although we got up at 7:00, packed, and ate breakfast, we didn’t leave until 8:00 on a day when we need to travel 18.7 miles by 15:30. There are a pair of hills to climb at the beginning, and 14 miles of unknown “flat” trail.
I fell back into my position of the rear of the foursome, keeping a good pace up the pair of hills above the East Flagstaff Lake, the third largest in Maine. We crossed the Jerome Brook between the hills.
We took a break at the West Carry Pond Lean-to to refill water, and Tandem discovered confectionery trail magic inside the shelter — chocolate raspberry cake slices with vanilla icing, vanilla cupcakes with chocolate mocha icing, large ginger snap cookies, chocolate brownies, and jelly and peanut brownie clusters. These are replenished twice a week by a woman who hikes 2.5 miles with her dog from the gravel road north of there. We stayed for 30 minutes eating the treats and getting water from West Carry Pond.
We left at 10:30 with 14 miles to go to on terrain that looked fairly flat and a net of only 1,000 feet of elevation change over that distance. We knew it would be tight. We rendezvoused at the East Carry Pond for another water and snack break and pulled and ate many blueberries. It was noon, and we still had ten miles to go to the ferry.
We moved on briskly, and I kept up with the group until we hit the rocky area. That’s when the sole of my left Merrill Moab boot started separating from the top of the shoe, which really concerned me as I hiked on. Since it was Sunday, I wondered what to do about calling Merrill for replacement boots and whether I could have them in Monson in two days.
We met at the entrance to the Pierce Pond Lean-to at 14:15, and we had four miles to go to the ferry. Deciding we could make that by 16:00, Mio and Mombo sped ahead while Tandem and I hiked together.
It was a tough four miles of following the edge of Pierce Pond and the river flowing out of it to the Kennebec River. I felt like it took forever, but we arrived at the ferry site by 15:30 with plenty of time to spare.
Mombo and Mio went first in the canoe with the ferry master. They had their packs and poles. The canoe had to go up current on our side of the river for a while before crossing, and the hiker in front also needed to paddle. Their canoe came too far downriver, and they had to paddle hard back up to reach the other beach at the AT.
The ferry master brought back a single SOBO hiker, and then it was our turn. We signed the waivers and donned our PFDs. I took the front seat to paddle and Tandem sat in the middle. We launched, and all of my canoeing experience as a child in NH and as a Scout kicked into gear. I paddled deeply and swiftly and fettered correctly. We hit the AT landing beach directly, and the ferry master said that it had been the best trip across all day!
We all thanked him and donned our packs for the .4 mile trail walk and .3 mile road walk to the Caratunk USPS office. There was a hiker box there, so I grabbed a warm Mountain Dew, a few Ramens, and duct tape. Mombo called The Sterling Inn for a shuttle to the inn for shoe repair and then further on to Northern Outdoors for dinner. Tandem also called the 800 number for Merrill but got no answer.
The Sterling Inn shuttle Astrovan took us to the inn for cold sodas and shoe glue for my shoes. They went one better, and the Inn owner applied the Gorilla Glue himself and duct taped the parts together. I put on my Crocs and got my AT Passport book stamped, then used change to get a $.75 Coke.
We thanked them, and his son shuttled us to Northern Outdoors for dinner. Before we left the inn, Handsome Dan came out to talk and decided to join us for dinner. We got a large table on the deck and ordered, then everyone except Handsome Dan went to take a free shower. It felt so good. I returned to the table first, and it started to rain, so we moved all of our stuff to a table in the bar area.
The waitress gave Mombo the bad news that the restaurant was out of ribs, which upset him, but he chose the Buffalo chicken wrap, like Tandem had, but with extra Buffalo sauce. Handsome Dan and I talked a lot about the Red Sox, who were beating the A’s as we talked. We also discussed hikers and how we had caught up with him due to him having taken two weeks of vacation.
Mio and Mombo got dessert, which was four large brownies with five scoops of vanilla ice cream and chocolate drizzled all over it. I ended having to help Mombo finish a fifth of his leftover dessert, and it was delicious.
After dinner, we were picked up by the Sterling Inn shuttle and dropped off at the AT trailhead. We thanked the driver and said goodnight to Handsome Dan, who was staying at the inn, then hiked .2 miles south on the AT to a stealth campsite near the Kennebec River ferry.
The mosquitos were bad here. I applied bug spray, which I hate having to do before getting in the tent for the night. We set up quickly and dove into our screened camping dwellings. I wrote two nights’ worth of blogs since the hike, rum, and dinner had knocked me out last night.
We will be in Monson in 38 miles, which is where we will restock for the 100 Mile Wilderness and get my shoes, although that may require a hitch to one of the outfitters in Greeneville.
Today was a 19 mile day, and we have 151 miles remaining to Mount Katahdin!